If I had to pick only one supplement to take, turmeric would most likely be my first choice simply because the many health benefits of turmeric are important to whole-body health. A plethora of studies conclude that turmeric root can have a noteworthy effect on neurological, metabolic, cardiovascular, and cellular health. It may even assist your thyroid and boost longevity.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a herb that comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant. It has long been recommended as a potent anti-inflammatory in both Chinese and Indian medicine. The many health benefits of turmeric are owed to curcumin, which is the natural compound that gives turmeric its beautiful golden color. Traditionally named “Indian saffron” because of its deep golden color, turmeric has, historically, been used as a condiment, healing remedy, and textile dye. Turmeric is best known as one of the ingredients in curry, which also gives mustard its bright yellow color. Harvested for more than 5,000 years, turmeric is native to Indonesia and southern India. It has also served an essential role in many traditional cultures throughout the East and considered a necessary member of Ayurvedic pharmacopeia.
Health Benefits of Turmeric for Alzheimer’s Disease
Studies suggest that curcumin, which is the biologically active constituent in turmeric, protects against Alzheimer’s disease by turning on a gene that codes for the production of antioxidant proteins. A study published in the Italian Journal of Biochemistry (December 2003) discussed curcumin’s role in the induction of the heme oxygenase pathway, a protective system that, when triggered in brain tissue, causes the production of the potent antioxidant bilirubin, which protects the brain against oxidative (free radical) injury. Such oxidation is a significant factor in aging and responsible for neurodegenerative disorders, including dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. Another study conducted jointly by an Italian and U.S. team and presented at the American Physiological Society’s 2004 annual conference in Washington, DC, confirmed that curcumin strongly induces expression of the gene, called hemeoxygenase-1 (HO-1) in astrocytes from the hippocampal region of the brain.
The most active ingredient in turmeric root, bisdemethoxycurcumin, boosts the activity of the immune system in Alzheimer’s patients, helping them to clear the amyloid-beta plaques characteristic of the disease. In healthy patients, immune cells called macrophages, which engulf and destroy abnormal cells and suspected pathogens, efficiently clear amyloid-beta, but macrophage activity is most likely suppressed in Alzheimer’s patients.
Using blood samples from Alzheimer’s patients, Drs. Milan Fiala and John Cashman have shown that bisdemethoxycurcumin boosts macrophage activity to normal levels, helping to clear amyloid-beta. They also found that bisdemethoxycurcumin was more effective in promoting the clearance of amyloid-beta in some patients’ blood than others, which hints that a genetic element is possibly involved. More studies showed the genes involved are MGAT III and Toll-like receptors, which are also responsible for several other vital immune functions. Bisdemethoxycurcumin enhances the transcription of these genes, correcting the immune defects seen in Alzheimer’s patients. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jul 31;104(31):12849-54.
Anti-Fungal Health Benefits of Turmeric
With more and more research, we are finding out that fungal issues can cause or add to many illnesses and diseases. While many herbs, vegetables, and fruits have anti-fungal properties, turmeric is proving to provide a more significant punch than most.
In a recent study from the European Journal of Pharmacology, research indicates that the primary polyphenol in turmeric known as curcumin is the best way to fight cancers that present a fungal element.
“Curcumin and its promise as an anticancer drug: An analysis of its anticancer and antifungal effects in cancer and associated complications from invasive fungal infections,” addresses the genuine concern of invasive fungal infections, as a relevant cause of morbidity and mortality, in those with cancer. The study states, “Effective anti-infection therapy is necessary to inhibit significant deterioration from these infections. However, they are difficult to treat, and increasing antifungal drug resistance often leads to a relapse.” The authors of this study propose curcumin may offer an excellent natural alternative:
“Curcumin, a natural component that is isolated from the rhizome of Curcuma longa plants, has attracted great interest among many scientists studying solid cancers over the last half century. Interestingly, curcumin provides an ideal alternative to current therapies because of its relatively safe profile, even at high doses. To date, curcumin’s potent antifungal activity against different strains of Candida, Cryptococcus, Aspergillus, Trichosporon and Paracoccidioides have been reported, indicating that curcumin anticancer drugs may also possess an antifungal role, helping cancer patients to resist invasive fungal infection related complications. The aim of this review is to discuss curcumin’s dual pharmacological activities regarding its applications as a natural anticancer and antifungal agent. These dual pharmacological activities are expected to lead to clinical trials and to improve infection survival among cancer patients.”
The study also explains that conventional cancer therapies tend to result in damage to the cancer patient’s immune system, which then can contribute to fungal overgrowth. Conventional drugs recommended for fungal infections can cause deliberate harm to the liver and kidneys of cancer patients as well as leading to the development of more aggressive, treatment-resistant fungal infections.
Anti-Viral Benefits of Turmeric
Turmeric’s antioxidant capacities partly play a primary role in its ability to help the body fight off or defeat viruses that attack the body. This is accomplished by elevating the body’s antioxidant enzymes, which provides a counterpunch to free radicals and aiding in the activation of the body’s own antioxidant devices.
Below are several viral infections that turmeric can help to suppress. Viruses can invade our cells by injecting their genetic material and reproducing. This turns the invaded cells into host organisms which can then cause infections:
- Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV). This virus attacks the T or CD4 cells of the immune system by weakening the body’s immune system ability. Even though HIV is considered incurable, studies show that curcumin may inhibit the HIV-1 and HIV-2 enzymes that are behind HIV’s severity.
- Herpes Simplex Virus. This virus produces the herpes infection. There are two known varieties – HSV-1 caused by skin-to-skin contact through towels, razors, lipsticks or lip balms. HSV-2 is sexually transmitted and does not exit the body. Curcumin suppresses the gene expression and infection of the herpes virus. Published in the journal ‘Virology,’ 2008 research, explored the benefit of Curcumin in suppressing gene expression as well as infection from the Herpes virus. The results indicate that Curcumin affects the recruitment of RNA polymerase II enzyme to immediate-early (IE) gene promoters which are mediated by viral transactivator protein VP 16. This prevents herpes infection.
- Hepatitis. Hepatitis A is the mildest form of several forms of hepatitis. Hepatitis B spreads by blood and body fluids. Hepatitis C spreads by infected blood. Hepatitis D is a result of the B strain. Curcumin works to suppress the replication of the viruses.
- Influenza. A 2010 study published in Food Chemistry suggests that 30 micrograms of curcumin are able to decrease the manufacture of the flu virus in cell culture by 90 percent. Curcumin inhibits the infection by preventing haemagglutination and interaction of HA protein with the host cell. In mice infected with the flu, curcumin showed an increase in survival and reduced lung damage, inflammation, macrophage activation, and viral load [R, R].
- Rift Valley Fever Virus (RVFV). RVFV is spread by mosquitoes and affects mostly domestic animals such as dogs, although it can be passed on to humans. Human symptoms are usually minimal, although there have been instances of more severe maladies such as encephalitis. Curcumin can help by inhibiting the viral multiplication inside the host organism’s body and also prevents the virus from suppressing the defense activity of the cell.
In the lab (test tubes) curcumin inhibited the following viruses:
- SARS-CoV-1 [R]
- Influenza A [R, R]
- Respiratory syncytial virus [R, R]
- Hepatitis B [R, R]
- Hepatitis C [R, R, R]
- Oral herpes (herpes simplex 1) [R, R]
- Genital herpes (herpes simplex 2) [R]
- HIV [R5, R, R, R]
- Cytomegalovirus [R]
- Enterovirus 71 [R, R]
- Zika [R]
- Chikungunya [R1, R]
- Dengue [R, R]
- Japanese encephalitis virus [R]
- Rift valley virus [R]
- Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus [R]
- Coxsackievirus B3 [5R8]
- Bovine herpesvirus type 1 [R]
The information above is for educational purposes only. The current coronavirus outbreak is ongoing, and specific information may change as new details are proven. Currently, there are no effective or FDA-approved products available for the treatment of the new coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 or 2019-nCoV); as of this date, research is still ongoing.
An Important Issue With Turmeric
For all its many health benefits, turmeric does have one issue. The golden spice has difficulty in its bioavailable to the body. In a nutshell, your body can only use a tiny portion of the turmeric consumed. As such, the low absorption levels of curcumin does not allow your body to make full use of the healing properties of turmeric. However, there is an easy way to heighten turmeric’s bioavailability by adding black pepper to turmeric.
20 Health Benefits of Turmeric
- produces anti-inflammatory effects that rival those of hydrocortisone & ibuprofen
- improves blood circulation
- supports & detoxifies the liver
- anti-fungal properties
- natural antiseptic & antibacterial agent
- may prevent metastases of many cancers
- natural painkiller & cox-2 inhibitor
- may help with cystic fibrosis
- aids in fat metabolism
- natural support for arthritis & rheumatoid arthritis
- inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in tumors
- speeds up wound healing
- may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- reduces the risk of childhood Leukemia
- powerful antioxidant
- supports healthy cholesterol
- supports healthy digestion
- supports healthy eyes
- may help with depression
- helps to stabilize blood sugar levels
Healthy Cooking with Turmeric
Your liver’s ability to clear LDL-cholesterol is essential. You can help out your liver by using turmeric to spice up sautéed onions, potatoes, and/or cauliflower or as the main flavor for a creamy vegetable dip. Mix plain organic yogurt with a little omega-3-rich mayonnaise and turmeric, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve with raw veggies such as cauliflower, celery, sweet pepper, jicama, and broccoli florets. Always choose organic turmeric rather than prepared curry blends. Recent research indicates the amount of turmeric (and therefore curcumin) in curry blends is often minimal. (Tayyem RF et al., Nutr Cancer)
Another way to incorporate the health benefits of turmeric in your healthy diet is to cut cauliflower florets in half, and healthy sauté with a generous spoonful of turmeric for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss with cold-pressed olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
Golden Turmeric Tonic Recipe
Delicious nighttime tonic! | (makes 1 cup)
- 1 C unsweetened almond milk
- 2 droppers Organic Turmeric
- 1/2” wide round slice of ginger root, peeled & finely chopped
- Dash of cayenne pepper
- ½ – 1 tsp raw honey
- Optional: cinnamon, cardamon
- Gently warm milk on the stove.
- In a mug, combine the remaining ingredients.
- Drizzle a tsp of the warmed milk into a mug & mix until the liquid is smooth.
- Add the rest of the milk & mix well.
- Leave the ginger pieces in the tonic or strain it out before drinking.
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